Saturday, 23 June 2012

A critique of Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth

1. Looking at the evidence

Although Richard Dawkins published his The Greatest Show on Earth: The evidence for evolution in 2009 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species, it’s only recently that I’ve got around to reading it. He’s right that nature is indeed the greatest show on earth, and his book includes good descriptions and photographs of some of the wonders of biology.

His aim in this book is, of course, to present the evidence for evolution, mistakenly thinking (or, at least, implying) that this proves the overall theory of (macro)evolution must be true (p9).

Evolution is fact ... no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it.

What he fails to take on board - though it is well known in the philosophy of science, so surely he is aware of it - is that no amount of supporting evidence can prove a theory true; what matters is whether there is contrary evidence that shows it to be false - Karl Popper’s falsifiability, which I’ve dealt with previously, so I won’t dwell on it here. I realise that some may think I am just raising this as a sort of smoke screen to try to avoid considering the supporting evidence. But this is not so, and you can judge for yourself from my subsequent comments whether this is the case. I will show (a) that the evidence presented by Dawkins (and others) is not as convincing as he would have you believe, and (b) there is substantial contrary evidence that shows the theory to be false.

One final introductory comment: It is a travesty that he lumps together those, such as myself, who have exclusively scientific objections to the theory of (macro)evolution, with those who reject evolution primarily for religious reasons; and it is utterly ridiculous that he then labels such as ‘history deniers’ and compares them with those who deny the holocaust - this does him no credit at all. I wonder if the main reason he does this is to fabricate an excuse to avoid taking seriously the scientific arguments against (macro)evolution, because he has no answer to them.

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